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Lessons Learned: First Game Back

What should fans take away from Thursday's 49-27 blowout?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens lost to Denver Broncos in a 49 to 27 blowout. When the Ravens entered the halftime with a 17 to 14 lead, it looked like the Ravens would at least make a game out of it. Flacco looked great and in rhythm on his first touchdown drive, and a lucky Wes Welker goal line fumble after a punt gave the Ravens their two touchdowns. But in the second half, the Broncos scored 28 unanswered points and the Ravens never again threatened to take the lead.

After such a disheartening loss, one might want to panic. And that's understandable. But it's important to remember the Ravens are still Super Bowl champions. Yes, it's obviously not ideal that the Ravens opened the defense of their title on the losing side of a blowout. Yes, the watching the game felt like the Ravens were even worse than the scoreboard indicated. And yes, that beat down hurt. A lot.

But it's only one game. It's a 16 game season, and this is just one loss. The team will have a lot of time to improve, and they most definitely won't be playing a team as good as the Broncos every week. The season is going to have a lot of ups and downs, and not overreacting to every single win and loss is important.

But we also have to resist the tendency to make excuses for this loss. Yes, Jacoby Jones and Michael Oher got injured. Dallas Clark dropped a gimmie touchdown pass. John Harbaugh didn't challenge a dropped pass. Or the always popular "the Ravens just didn't look energized. They didn't want it enough." If Ravens fans try hard enough, if we squint at this game just right, we can convince ourselves that this Ravens performance was a one-time thing. Next week, we can tell ourselves, everything will be well in Ravens nation.

But that is just sloppy and lazy analysis that stops us from accepting the truth. Cornerbacks don't give up 50 yard touchdowns because they felt momentum wasn't going their way. Wide receivers don't drop balls because they just decided they didn't have the necessary will to win. And the running game doesn't struggle because John Harbaugh didn't throw a challenge flag on what would have been a Denver incomplete pass. Cornerbacks give up 50 yard touchdowns because they aren't as good as the other team's wide receivers. Wide receivers drop passes because they didn't get enough separation from their defender or didn't exercise the fundamentals. Those things don't change over one week.

But they do change over the course of a season. And one of the greatest parts of being a Ravens fan is that we know that the Ravens coaching staff is one of the best in the entire NFL at taking fringe role players and changing them into big time contributors. At this time last year, Paul Kruger was a bust second round draft pick and Darnell Ellerbe was Ray Lewis' backup. By the time the Super Bowl came around, they were key contributors on a resurgent defense.

The Ravens looked bad against the Broncos. Really bad. And I can't wait to see how John Harbaugh responds and which Ravens step up.

See you next week.

Random observations from an untrained eye:
• I've seen some people complain that Baltimore didn't use Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. First, I think that complaint is somewhat silly given the way that Denver blew the game open in the second half. The Ravens had to keep throwing the ball to have even a small chance to stay in the game. Second, both Rice and Pierce were incredibly ineffective, averaging 2.8 yards per carry. If the Ravens are going to make the playoffs, that's going to have to improve tremendously.

• Before Oher was injured, the Ravens offensive line looked fantastic and Denver really had difficulty pressuring the quarterback. Afterwards, Denver seemed like they were able to pressure the Ravens a lot better. I don't know whether John Fox was just able to figure out the Ravens blocking scheme better as the game went on or if the loss of Oher was the main reason for the added pressure, but Flacco definitely didn't have an incredible amount of time in the pocket after the first quarter.

• I was pretty impressed by Marlon Brown. He seemed to do a great job filling in for Jacoby Jones.

• Congratulations to Peyton Manning throwing seven touchdowns in a game. I really don't like him that much (o.k., I kind of despise him), but I can acknowledge an impressive achievement when I see one. But it's also not like the Ravens secondary didn't help out. I'm going to go to bed to night with nightmares of Ravens defenders in blown coverage dancing in my head.